Northern Ireland news

Inquiry into alleged abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey hears claims of 'chilling' incidents

A public inquiry into Antrim's Muckamore Abbey Hospital is examining alleged incidents from 1999 up to last year. Picture by Mal McCann
Staff Reporter

THE public inquiry into alleged abuse at Muckamore Abbey has heard claims a vulnerable patient had a "near miss" after receiving too much medication from staff.

The hearing was told by a sister of the patient that there had been a breakdown of "civilised behaviour" at the Antrim hospital, which is operated by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

A PSNI investigation into criminal safeguarding at the facility is now the largest of its kind in the UK.

A total of 38 people have been reported to the Public Prosecution Service in relation to the investigation, while the trust has confirmed 83 staff members have been suspended, with 68 others being supervised and receiving training.

The patient discussed yesterday, whose name was provided as Martin with his surname withheld, is in his late 30s with complex needs, and became an inpatient at Muckamore at 16.

His sister, Antoinette, told the hearing of incidents involving Muckamore staff and Martin, who she said never smiled until he eventually left the hospital.

She said her family had been told of a "near miss" when Martin had received "too much medication" on one occasion.

Another time her brother was pushed in a shower and suffered a head injury, Antoinette claimed.

She said her "slightly built" brother was often pinned down, including on one occasion by three men.

A bottle of water was once poured over his head while others made fun of him and "laughed", she said.

Martin, who had become withdrawn during his time at Muckamore according to his sister, was at one stage at risk of "organ failure" as a result of losing weight at 16 following admission.

She said her family's concerns were dismissed with a staff member saying: "I don't know what you're talking about. I think he looks well."

The inquiry has been told that despite some patients being unable to speak due to their conditions, many were able to tell loved ones of their "pain, distress, sadness and fear".

Meanwhile, the hearing also heard from the mother of a woman, Kirsty, who spent two years in Muckamore.

She said her daughter was afraid of being alone, but was often forcibly placed in seclusion by staff, which sometimes caused bruising.

The public inquiry has been told that hundreds of patients may have been harmed since 1950, but is examining allegations from 1999 to 2021.

The Belfast trust has offered an "unreserved and unequivocal" apology to patients and families affected.

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